ICMA has been implementing projects to help strengthen local governments in Honduras since 1990. In fact, the Association’s first activity in the Latin American and Caribbean region was a municipal development project involving 22 cities in Honduras. Since then, ICMA has been awarded multiple projects by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with the goal of building stronger local governments and communities in that country.
The Honduran cities of La Ceiba and Choloma are participating in the Honduras Pilot Partnership to Strengthen Violence Prevention through Environmental Design, a city-to-city pilot partnership under the ICMA CityLinks™ program. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CityLinks pairs U.S. cities with municipalities in developing and transitioning countries to address local challenges. ICMA is facilitating partnerships for both La Ceiba and Choloma by linking them with one or two U.S. cities that will provide assistance and support throughout the duration of the program.
The CityLinks program is focused on challenges related to climate change, food security, and water and sanitation access. In the case of the Honduran cities, the pilots will apply the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) methodology, which improves citizen security conditions while simultaneously addressing risks associated with climate change effects, which may enable criminal activity.
Community Development for Reconstruction in Honduras
In September 2000, ICMA was awarded a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to design and implement a program to assist three communities in Honduras affected by Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the country in October 1998. As part of this agreement, HUD granted $1 million to ICMA for community improvement activities identified as high priority by the residents of the three communities.
ICMA established two independent nonprofit Community Development Foundations (CDFs), one for each community. The foundations brought together stakeholder groups (nongovernmental organizations, resident organizations, private business, and others) in a highly participatory process of community improvement modeled after the HUD Empowerment Zone Program in the United States. The initiative for each of the community improvement projects came from the residents of the communities who contributed to the planning process and also contributed self-help labor for most projects.
After identifying priority projects, the residents participated in a series of meetings, workshops and training sessions to work out detailed plans for the operation and maintenance of the projects in cooperation with their community organizations and local NGOs. An operational plan, “plan operativo,” was prepared for each project as a combined effort of the residents, the NGOs and ICMA.
ICMA provided grants to NGOs and engaged in training for NGO staff and community leaders in project design, management, implementation, evaluation, and monitoring. Training and capacity building took place on several levels: (1) training and orientation of the members of the boards of directors for the CDFs; (2) training of future CDF staff (who initially served as ICMA Honduras staff); (3) training of leaders and staff of Honduran NGOs that received grants from ICMA-HUD for the community improvement projects; and (4) training of community leaders from formal and informal community organizations.
ICMA conducted 26 training workshops, dozens of inter-institutional meetings with different community groups and organizations in both Amareteca and San Pedro Sula, as well as meetings with the support committees established for each project, which included supervision and monitoring of citizen participation in the construction of the projects themselves.
The following community improvement projects were also completed: (1) elementary school/day care center, (2) vocational training center, (3) health center, (4) self-help houses, (5) water system, (6) street drainage, (7) sewer extension, (8) kindergartens, (9) micro-credit loans for small businesses, and (10) community computer training centers.
Honduran Mayoral Candidates Training
ICMA held two training programs for Honduran Mayoral candidates with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Both were held as part of the International Municipal Management Institute in Arizona approximately four years apart (the first was organized in 1997 and the second in 2001).
In 1997, ICMA coordinated a 15-day training program on municipal development in the Phoenix/Tempe, Arizona, area. The purpose was to introduce the delegation to the U.S. system of government, through seven training modules developed by ICMA, including leadership, teambuilding, contracting, public works, finance and budgeting, finance/bonds, and alternative local governments. The program provided participants with hands-on exposure to the American culture, free-market economy and democratic principles.
Fifty mayors attended, as well as one representative from the Foundation for Municipal Development (FUNDEMUN) and one from the Association of Honduran Municipalities (AMHON). In addition to being introduced to alternative methods of government organization and structure, the participants visited ten cities and towns in Arizona, engaging in discussions with local administrators regarding issues related to the problems they faced in Honduras.
Similar to the first training event, the second training lasted ten days and was held in Chandler, Arizona. Eighty-six Honduran mayors and candidates participated in workshops on community participation, leadership skills, capital improvement planning, local economic development and community-oriented policing. Participants also attended site visits to wastewater treatment facilities, council meetings, economic revitalization, and agribusiness projects, among others.
Participants evaluated the program very highly and commented that many concepts, including transparency in governance, open council meetings, and wastewater treatment, were adaptable to their situation in Honduras. Participants also committed themselves to making improvements in their communities based on the ideas shared and concepts learned through the program.
Assessment of the Impact of Hurricane Mitch
In April 1999, ICMA responded to a request from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID/Honduras and G/ENV/UP) to assess the impact of Hurricane Mitch. After a two-week TDY in Honduras, a team from ICMA drafted a report on the impact of Hurricane Mitch, which was based upon a review of national reconstruction plans and intensive surveys of five municipalities. ICMA team members met with citizens, mayors, municipal staff, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). ICMA reviewed USAID plans for assisting with short-term, temporary housing and community services for those affected by Hurricane Mitch and made recommendations for action programs:
An Assessment of the Impact of Hurricane Mitch
Una Evaluacion del Impacto del Huracan Mitch
Association of Honduran Municipalities (AMHON)
Starting in 1993-1994, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded ICMA to work closely with AMHON board members to assist them in defining the role of the association and to coach them on municipal association management. To enhance AMHON’s role in the country and to improve the management of its activities, a competent and devoted executive director was essential. With guidance from ICMA, the board developed the selection criteria and job description for an executive director and hired a director, who in turn hired staff members, enabling the organization to become a more viable and visible force for the municipal reform movement in Honduras.
AMHON held its first National Conference of Mayors in 1992, focusing on strengthening municipal autonomy in Honduras. As a result of this program, revenue generation from member municipalities increased dramatically. An education campaign was also initiated to educate mayors and the public about the 1990 Municipal Law, which gave the municipalities more autonomy from the central government and control over local resources and financial resources.
ICMA provided assistance to 22 cities in Honduras, focusing on three key sectors: environmental management; municipal finance and revenue generation; and democracy building, which included an emphasis on strengthening the country’s existing national municipal association. Results of this three-year program (1990-1993) included the following:
- Cities made improvements in solid waste management and collection, increased local control over water services and the hiring of qualified engineers to improve the planning and execution of public works projects
- The Sula Valley Metropolitan Authority (ZMVS) grew from four to nine cities during the life of the program and received essential support from local mayors and councils
- All 14 target cities that had severely deficient accounting systems achieved standardized budgets for the first time; 11 of these cities put new accounting systems into operation; and nine cities installed computerized systems
- Four cities increased tax revenues by more than 25 percent for the period 1991-1993, and two cities had increases of more than 50 percent;
- The Association of Honduran Municipalities (AMHON) was transformed from a weak 30-year old institution into a strong, viable national organization.
At the local level, ICMA worked with the mayors and senior officials of selected Honduran municipalities to encourage community participation. One target city, Choloma, held its first public town meeting in almost 150 years and others followed their example. Several others were encouraged to produce public municipal budgets and a number of cities also enhanced the role of the city administrators as a means of professionalizing municipal management and further institutionalizing the improvements.